How casual should jobs be?
An EU-funded project recently took a look at the European labour market to assess the sociological effects of ‘contingent employment'. For the sake of their study, researchers focused primarily on limited duration contracts (LDCs) and employment obtained through temporary work agencies (TWAs). They hoped to gain a better understanding of the forces behind the use of such employment schemes and the consequences for workers, employers and trade unions. They were able to determine that, despite their reputation, TWAs can serve as reliable source of income for some Europeans.
One of the major findings of their study was that TWAs can indeed provide workers with both relative security and flexibility. TWAs can offer security when a prospective employee manages to secure a contract with the actual agency itself. Once such a position is obtained, then the employee enjoys a certain degree of flexibility through assignments at the firms associated with the TWA.
The report suggests that European governments could take a more
active role in recognising the positive effect potentially played
by TWAs in labour market policy goals. Government could do more
in striking a balance between private TWAs and public employment
services, according to the researchers. They suggest a “first
step would be to consider revisions of the governance structure
of temporary agency work.”
Interestingly, the report notes that trade unions could do more to bring temporary workers under their protection. They write that unions have been reluctant to organise at agencies and hesitant to act in favour of employment protection when it comes to temporary employees.
Despite the potential of TWAs to contribute towards policy goals,
the NUEWO team concludes that more research is required to properly
assess the nature of temporary employment. They recommend the
creation of a “forum for the discussion of comparative
research methodology in European research efforts.”